Writing systems that use Chinese characters also include various punctuation marks, derived from both Chinese and Western sources. Historically, jùdú (句读; 句讀) annotations were often used to indicate the boundaries of sentences and clauses in text. The use of punctuation in written Chinese only became mandatory during the 20th century, due to Western influence. Unlike modern punctuation, judu marks were added by scholars for pedagogical purposes and were not viewed as integral to the text. Texts were therefore generally transmitted without judu. In most cases, this practice did not interfere with the interpretation of a text, although it occasionally resulted in ambiguity.[A]

The first book to be printed with modern punctuation was Outline of the History of Chinese Philosophy (中國哲學史大綱) by Hu Shih, published in 1919. Traditional poetry and calligraphy maintains the punctuation-free style. However, most editions of classical texts published since the 1930s are punctuated with fully modern punctuation (or at least using the modern equivalents of the traditional judu marks).

The usage of punctuation in China is regulated by the Chinese national standard GB/T 15834–2011 "General rules for punctuation" (標點符號用法; 标点符号用法; biāodiǎn fúhào yòngfǎ).[2]

Shape of punctuation marks

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Examples of handwritten punctuation (circles in red ink) at the bottom-right or -center of characters. From the Yongle Encyclopedia.
1912 textbook of the Republic of China, with punctuation marks to the right of characters

Many ancient Chinese books contain thousands of words with no spaces between them; however, when necessary to explicitly denote a pause or break, Judu marks such as "" and "" were used.

Similar to the development of punctuation in Europe, there were varying types of Judu marks. For instance, a Song dynasty print of Chronicles of Huayang used full-width spaces to denote a stop,[citation needed][3] whereas a print of Jingdian Shiwen from the same period simply used "" and "" marks.[citation needed] Qu Yuan's Li Sao used the character and grammatical particles to denote stops, similar to judu marks.[4] In Written Chinese, each character conforms to a roughly square frame, so the entire text can fit into a grid.

Because of this, East Asian punctuation marks are larger than their European counterparts, as they should occupy a square area that is the same size as the characters around them. These punctuation marks are called fullwidth to contrast them from halfwidth European punctuation marks.

Chinese characters can be written horizontally or vertically. Some punctuation marks adapt to this change in direction: the parentheses, square brackets, square quotation marks, book title marks, ellipsis marks, and dashes all rotate 90° clockwise when used in vertical text.

The three underline-like punctuation marks in Chinese (proper noun mark, wavy book title mark, and emphasis mark) rotate and shift to the left side of the text in vertical script (shifting to the right side of the text is also possible, but this is outmoded and can clash with the placement of other punctuation marks).

Marks similar to European punctuation

Marks imported from Europe are fullwidth instead of halfwidth like their original European counterparts, thus incorporating more space, and no longer need to be followed by an additional space in typesetting:[5][6]

Other punctuation

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Other punctuation symbols are more different, in shape or usage:[6][7]

Punctuation marks

Period ( )
The Chinese period (U+3002 IDEOGRAPHIC FULL STOP) is a fullwidth small circle (Chinese: 句號; pinyin: jùhào; lit. 'Sentence Mark'). In horizontal writing, the period is placed in the middle 。︁, however in Mainland China it is placed in the bottom left 。︁; in vertical writing, it is placed below and to the right of the last character (U+FE12 PRESENTATION FORM FOR VERTICAL IDEOGRAPHIC FULL STOP) in Mainland China, and in the middle 。︁ in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.[6]
Quotation marks ( 「...」 , ﹁...﹂ , "..." )
Traditional Chinese does not use European quotation marks. Its double and single quotation marks are fullwidth 『 』 (U+300E LEFT WHITE CORNER BRACKET, U+300F RIGHT WHITE CORNER BRACKET) and 「 」 (U+300C LEFT CORNER BRACKET, U+300D RIGHT CORNER BRACKET). The double quotation marks are used when embedded within single quotation marks: 「...『...』...」. In vertical text, quotation marks are rotated 90° clockwise (﹁﹂ (U+FE41 PRESENTATION FORM FOR VERTICAL LEFT ANGLE BRACKET, U+FE42 PRESENTATION FORM FOR VERTICAL RIGHT CORNER BRACKET)).[6][7][8]
Simplified Chinese officially prescribes European-style quotation marks for horizontal text and Chinese quotation marks for vertical text. Single quotation marks are used when embedded within double quotation marks: "...'...'...".
These quotation marks are fullwidth in printed matter but share the same codepoints as the European quotation marks in Unicode, so they require a Chinese-language font to be displayed correctly. In vertical text, corner brackets rotated 90° clockwise (﹁﹂), are used as in Traditional Chinese. However, corner brackets are commonly encountered in situations that normally necessitate European punctuation, including in official contexts and media.[9]
Enumeration comma ( )
A sign in a Zhuhai park, which, if we reproduce enumeration commas in English, can be rendered nearly word-for-word as: "It is strictly forbidden to pick flowers fruit leaves, [or to] dig out roots medicinal plants!"
The enumeration comma (U+3001 IDEOGRAPHIC COMMA) or "dun comma" (Chinese: 頓號; pinyin: dùnhào; lit. 'pause mark') must be used instead of the regular comma when separating words constituting a list.
Chinese language does not traditionally observe the English custom of a serial comma (the comma before conjunctions in a list), although the issue is of little consequence in Chinese at any rate, as the English "A, B, and C" is more likely to be rendered in Chinese as "A、B及C" or more often as "A、B、C", without any word for "and", see picture to the right.[6]
Middle dot ( · )
Chinese uses a middle dot to separate characters in non-Han personal names, such as Tibetan, Uyghur, etc. For example "Nur Bekri" (نۇر بەكرى), the name of a Chinese politician of Uyghur descent is rendered as "努爾·白克力". "Leonardo da Vinci" is often transcribed to Mandarin as: 李奧納多·達·文西. The middle dot is also fullwidth in printed matter, while the halfwidth middle dot (·) is also used in computer input, which is then rendered as fullwidth in Chinese-language fonts.
In Taiwan, the hyphenation point () (U+2027 HYPHENATION POINT) is used instead for the same purpose.[10][failed verificationsee discussion] They can also be used to represent decimal points in Chinese. For example "3.5" becomes 「三‧五」.[11]
Title marks ( 《...》, 〈...〉, ﹏﹏﹏ )
For titles of books, films, and so on, Simplified Chinese officially uses fullwidth double angle brackets[12] 《...》 (U+300A LEFT DOUBLE ANGLE BRACKET, U+300B RIGHT DOUBLE ANGLE BRACKET), and fullwidth single angle brackets, 〈...〉 (U+3008 LEFT ANGLE BRACKET, U+3009 RIGHT ANGLE BRACKET).
The latter is used when embedded within the former: 《...〈...〉...》. Although ﹏﹏﹏ (wavy underline, U+FE4F WAVY LOW LINE) is the officially prescribed title mark by Taiwan's Ministry of Education (especially for handwriting), when typing, square brackets【 】 and double quotation marks 『 』are also de facto used, if not prescribed by dictionaries in a manner akin to Korean and Japanese; Simplified Chinese often does likewise for song titles. In practice, Traditional Chinese, single title marks are also used for articles in or sections of a book, a rule that is also officially prescribed for Simplified Chinese.
Furthermore, unsanctioned and alternate usage of Western or Chinese quotation marks is rather common, especially so for Chinese quotation marks in Traditional Chinese newspapers; this "unsanctioned practice" is also commonly found in Japanese and Korean.[6][7]
Ellipsis ( …… )
In Chinese, the ellipsis is written with six dots (not three) occupying the same space as two characters in the center of a line.[2][13]
Unicode provides an explicitly centered U+22EF MIDLINE HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS character[14] in addition to the inexplicit U+2026 HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS character.[15]
Two-em dash ( )
Similarly, the two-em dash (U+2E3A TWO-EM DASH) is written so that it occupies the space of two em dash characters in the center of the line. There should be no breaking in the line.[2] To represent the two-em dash character (), one can write two consecutive em dashes (——, U+2014 U+2014). Chinese dash is Chinese: 破折號; pinyin: pòzhéhào; lit. 'Break/Fold Mark'.
En dash ( )
When connecting two words to signify a range, Chinese generally uses an en dash occupying the space of one character (e.g. 1月—7月 "January to July", which can also be written 1月到7月, with the character 到 in place of the dash). A single em dash character or a tilde may also be used.[16]
Wave dash ( )
The wave dash (U+301C WAVE DASH, simplified Chinese: 浪纹; traditional Chinese: 浪紋; pinyin: làng wén) is used in the Chinese language to signify a numerical range (e.g. 5~20個字 "5 to 20 words"). Additionally, there is another Unicode character called the fullwidth tilde (U+FF5E FULLWIDTH TILDE, Chinese: 全形波浪號; pinyin: quán xíng bōlàng hào) which is often used as an alternative form of the wave dash symbol. The wave dash is more commonly but not exclusively used when the numbers are estimates (e.g. circa dates and temperatures in weather forecasts).
For the most part, however, the en dash and wavy dash are interchangeable; usage is largely a matter of personal taste or institutional style. Note that the wave dash ( ) and the fullwidth tilde ( ) should not be confused with the wavy dash character (U+3030 WAVY DASH, simplified Chinese: 浪线; traditional Chinese: 浪線; pinyin: làng xiàn). In Japanese, the wavy dash is used as an emphatic form of the katakana-hiragana prolonged sound mark.
In informal use (such as texting), wavy dashes are also used to indicate a prolonged vowel similar to informal English's repeated letters (e.g. 哇~~ "waaah") or to indicate stress in places where English would employ an emphatic tone marked variously by italics or bolding (e.g. 要~~ "I want it!").[6]
Similar to the spacing between letters (kerning) in European languages, Chinese writing uses a very narrow space between characters, though it does not observe the equivalent to the wider space between words except on rare occasions. Chinese – particularly classical Chinese – is thus a form of scriptio continua and it is common for words to be split between lines with no marking in the text equivalent to the English hyphen.
When a space is used, it is also fullwidth (U+3000 IDEOGRAPHIC SPACE).
One instance of its usage is as an honorific marker. A modern example in 20th century Taiwan, is found in the reference to Chiang Kai-shek as 先‌總‌統 蔣‌公 (Former President, Lord Chiang), in which the preceding space serves as an honorific marker for 蔣公. This use is also still current in very formal letters or other old-style documents,[6] as well as religious scripture.
When Chinese is romanized, spaces are used to assist in reading. Rules vary between systems but most commonly – as in Hanyu Pinyin – the spaces properly occur between semantic divisions (i.e., words) but in practice are often placed between phonetic divisions (i.e., individual characters). In the Wade–Giles system, separate characters within a word were noted by hyphens but this is increasingly uncommon.
Asterisk ( * )
Mainland Chinese supply chains often use an asterisk in place of a multiplication sign (×) to specify product dimensions. For example "10×200×350" becomes "10*200*350".
Example of Chinese products using asterisks as punctuation for product dimensions.

Typographic styles

The following are commonly suggested typographical styles; however, they are rarely carried out in practice and often only used when necessary. Proper name marks and title marks are primarily used in textbooks and official documents in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

Proper name mark ( __ )
A proper name mark (an underline) is occasionally used, especially in teaching materials and some movie subtitles. When the text runs vertically, the appropriate name mark is written as a line to the characters' left (to the right in some older books).
Title mark ( ﹏﹏ )
A title mark is a wavy underline (﹏﹏, U+FE4F WAVY LOW LINE) used instead of the regular book title marks whenever the proper noun mark is used in the same text.
Emphasis mark
For emphasis, Chinese uses emphasis marks instead of italic type. Each emphasis mark is a single dot placed under each character to be emphasized (for vertical text, the dot is placed to the right-hand side of each character). Although frequent in printed matter, emphasis marks are rare online, as most word processors do not support them. However, support in HTML has been possible by adding the CSS property text-emphasis-style.
Death-indication mark (
姓 名
A death-indication mark [zh] (simplified Chinese: 示亡号; traditional Chinese: 示亡號; pinyin: shìwánghào) marks a person's recent death. Typographically, it consists of a black border around the person's name. It is supported by most word processors and is supported in CSS through the border property. It is used in lists or bibliographical data, for example. Lin Suifang 林穗芳 suggests that this practice may have entered the Chinese language in the fifties when it was supposedly adopted from translations from Russian; he does not cite any sources for this statement, however.[17]


There is no equivalent of the apostrophe in Chinese. Therefore, it is omitted in translated foreign names such as "O'Neill". Likewise, the hyphen is used only when writing translated foreign names with hyphens. Otherwise, it is not used in Chinese and is omitted when translating compound words.

Use of punctuation marks

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Several punctuation marks have ranges of use that differ from the way they are used in English, though some functions may overlap.

See also


  1. ^ For example, this passage "卒為善士則之野有眾逐虎" in Mencius 7B "Wholeheartedly" (孟子·盡心下) has been punctuated as "卒為善士。則之野。有眾逐虎。; 'Ultimately', 'he became a great gentleman. Thereupon he went to the countryside. There was a crowd in pursuit of a tiger'"; or as "卒為善。士則之。野有眾逐虎。; 'Ultimately', 'he became great. Gentlemen took him as a model. In the countryside there was a crowd in pursuit of a tiger.'"; or as "卒為善士則。之野。有眾逐虎。; 'Ultimately', 'he became a model for great gentlemen. He went to the countryside. There was a crowd in pursuit of a tiger.'". The first was given by the Han dynasty scholar Zhao Qi (趙岐) and was the traditional reading accepted by Song scholar Zhu Xi, Qing scholar Jiao Xun [zh], etc. The second reading is favored by 13th-century scholars Liu Changshi (劉昌詩), Zhou Mi, etc. The third reading is proposed by modern scholars Wang Changlin (2002, 64) as well as Qin Hualin & Ling Yu (2005, 31).[1]


  1. ^ Van Els, Paul (February 2021). "Moral Beauty and the Beast: Ethical Dilemmas in the Mencius", Vol. 35. p. 18-19 of pp. 13–45
  2. ^ a b c Zhonghua renmin gongheguo guojia zhiliang jiandu jianyan jianyi zongju (30 December 2011), 中华人民共和国国家标准 GB/T 15834–2011:标点符号用法 [National Standard of the People's Republic of China GB/T 15834–2011: General Rules for Punctuation] (PDF) (in Chinese), archived from the original (PDF) on 9 November 2016, retrieved 24 January 2014
  3. ^ 常璩 (1809). 華陽國志: 十二卷 (in Chinese). 李氏萬卷樓.
  4. ^ "Lísāo" 离骚. Gǔshī wén wǎng 古诗文网 (in Simplified Chinese). Archived from the original on 14 June 2018.
  5. ^ Halfwidth and Fullwidth Forms (PDF), The Unicode Consortium, archived from the original (PDF) on 22 February 2016, retrieved 9 February 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h CJK Symbols and Punctuation (PDF), The Unicode Consortium, archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016, retrieved 9 February 2016.
  7. ^ a b c CJK Compatibility Forms (PDF), The Unicode Consortium, archived from the original (PDF) on 22 February 2016, retrieved 9 February 2016.
  8. ^ 中華民國教育部國語推行委員會,《重訂標點符號手冊》,中華民國八十六年三月台灣學術網路三版。
  9. ^ 中華人民共和國國家標準,《標點符號用法》,1995年12月13日發布,1996年6月1日實施。
  10. ^ General Punctuation (PDF), The Unicode Consortium, archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016, retrieved 9 February 2016.
  11. ^ "《重訂標點符號手冊》修訂版--間隔號".
  12. ^ CJK Symbols and Punctuation (PDF), The Unicode Consortium, archived from the original (PDF) on 7 April 2009, retrieved 6 November 2009.
  13. ^ "Shānjié hào" 刪節號. "Chóng dìng biāodiǎn fúhào shǒucè" xiūdìng bǎn 《重訂標點符號手冊》修訂版 (in Chinese). Jiaoyu bu. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  14. ^ Mathematical Operators (PDF), Unicode Consortium, p. 7, archived from the original (PDF) on 19 February 2018, retrieved 1 March 2018.
  15. ^ General Punctuation (PDF), Unicode Consortium, p. 4, archived from the original (PDF) on 19 February 2018, retrieved 1 March 2018.
  16. ^ Chinese Layout Task Force. "Requirements for Chinese Text Layout". W3C. Archived from the original on 19 April 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  17. ^ Lin, Suifang (2000). Biāodiǎn fúhào xuéxí yǔ yìngyòng 标点符号学习与应用 [The Study and Application of Punctuation Marks] (in Chinese) (1 ed.). Beijing: People's Press. ISBN 7-01-003043-X. OCLC 45138497. p. 397: 50年代初通过翻译俄语书刊进入汉语